I loved Moneyball, but feel I need to critique a few things in the same way a Star Wars fan must point out Hans Solo would not have survived being frozen in carbonite.
First the good: the film is wonderfully acted by the main cast of Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I thought Hoffman did especially well portraying a big league manager (Art Howe). The directing and photography were well done and the baseball scenes looked legitimate … for the most part.
Unfortunately, a non-baseball fan (or even an uneducated baseball fan) can easily walk away from Moneyball misled.
The 2002 Oakland A’s were a great team. They did win 20 games in a row. Billy Beane did gather his team in a way that was new to the baseball establishment. But it took much more than Scott Hatterberg, David Justice and Jeremy Giambi to do this. The film all but omits huge contributors such as Miguel Tejada, Jermaine Dye, Eric Chavez and Ray Durham. Aside from Chad Bradford – a good, but not great middle reliever (3.11 ERA in 75 IP) – Moneyball doesn’t mention the dominating pitching staff consisting of Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito who pitched 46 percent of the entire staff’s inning total in 2002.
It could be pointed out that the pitching wasn’t the point of the film. The point was Beane was trying to fill a gigantic hole from the loss of Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon and he did so with a few players that other teams considered unworthy of a roster spot, let alone a starting position.
One of the film’s main divergences focuses on Beane’s insistence for Howe to start Scott Hatterberg instead of the young rookie Carlos Pena. When Beane and his assistant eventually work on trading Pena, his assistant says he’s going to be an All Star. This is nowhere near the truth. Pena wasn’t near his potential in 2002. His statistics with the A’s were well below average (.218 AVG, .305 OBP, .419 SLG, 141 PA) – hardly an All Star.
The film also acts as if Hatterberg didn’t get significant playing time until after the trade of Pena. This is also not true. Hatterberg played 136 games with 568 plate appearances. Pena only played 40 games.
Then there are the baseball scenes. I don’t remember anything being wrong with the stadium lighting when the A’s were trying to win their 20th straight game, but director Bennett Miller seems to have taken a lesson from Tony Scott and his horrible film The Fan. Given the lighting in the film, Hatterberg never would have hit that home run to win the game but rather listened to three strikes he couldn’t see.
During the flashbacks of Beane’s playing career, the audience is shown Beane playing for the Twins. Unfortunately, they put Beane in a home uniform during an outdoor game – impossible during the mid-80s in Minnesota.
Speaking of Minnesota, even though the scene that portrays the A’s final game of the season is very short, there are a number of inaccuracies. Eddie Guardado is the final pitcher for the Twins. Guardado was not the athlete like the actor portraying him. He was a chunk. Corey Koskie catches the final out from the bat of Ray Durham in fair territory near third base. The final out was caught by the second baseman Denny Hocking deep in foul territory behind first base. It was also a day game with the sunny, cloudless sky a factor with high fly balls.
During the Twins’ celebration the audience hears commentators talking about why Minnesota won and the A’s lost. They forget to mention the Twins had an almost equally small payroll (Twins $50.4 million vs. A’s $44 million.)
Moneyball is a great film. I wasn’t looking for absolute accuracy and didn’t expect it. The book mentions Beane’s daughter, but not to the depth of the film. I loved the father/daughter aspect of the film. It adds a human quality to Beane that makes his decision in the end more appreciated.
In The Rookie, Jim Morris’s big strikeout in his first game takes only three pitches. In real life, it was four. Is this 100-percent accurate? No. Do I care? No, but it’s fun to point out.